Most patients recover after gastric bypass surgery without complications. Typically, those who undergo the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure, which involves stapling of the stomach and bypassing the first part of the small intestines, have a hospital stay of two to four days. Other gastric bypass procedures may have shorter or longer recovery times.
Aside from common risks associated with surgeries like infection, after gastric bypass surgery, patients must be more sensitive to their nutritional intake. Since the surgery bypasses a portion of the small intestine responsible for much of the body’s nutrient absorption, patients may face problems like lack of iron (anemia), lack of calcium leading to osteoporosis, lack of vitamin B12, and more. With nutritional counseling and supplements, these effects can be lessened greatly.
After gastric bypass surgery, there is also the possibility that the patient may experience ‘dumping syndrome,’ an unpleasant reaction caused by food high in simple carbohydrates that involves abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, weakness, and sweating after eating.
As the stomach is extremely sensitive for several weeks after gastric bypass surgery, initially patients subsist on a liquid or semi-liquid diet. Afterward, solid food will make the patient feel full very quickly as the new stomach pouch usually only holds a tablespoon of food. The pouch will eventually expand and the patient will be expected to eat several small meals throughout the day. In addition, the stomach probably will not be able to handle both solid food and liquid at the same time intake of fluid and food will have to be separated by at least 30 minutes. Consumption of high-fat foods, alcohol, and sugar will not be tolerated by the digestive system after gastric bypass surgery and will make you feel ill. Exercise in the form of walking should begin immediately following the hospital stay but more strenuous exercise should be gradually introduced 6-8 weeks after surgery.
Excess weight loss will begin immediately after gastric bypass surgery and typically continues for 18-24 months after surgery at which point many patients have lost between 50% and 100% of their excess weight. This depends, however, on their commitment to follow the dietary and lifestyle guidelines outlined by their physician and dietary counselor. Remember the surgery is not a solution in itself and results will depend on the patient’s commitment to eat properly and exercise.